A NEW documentary celebrating the life, spirit and incredible work of Dame Deborah James is airing tonight.

Dame Deborah James: The Last Dance is on BBC One at 8.30pm and sees the Sun columnist’s friends and loved ones pay tribute to her. 

The Sun writer and cancer campaigner died on Tuesday at the age of 40, but not before she raised millions of pounds for charity, all in a matter of weeks.

The half-hour show – which is already available to watch on BBC iPlayer – tells Deborah’s story, from when she was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer just before Christmas in 2016, through to her final weeks when Prince William made her a Dame and she launched the Bowelbabe Fund, which has raised almost £7million for Cancer Research.

Brits are being encouraged to get the fundraiser past the £10 million mark this weekend.

In The Last Dance we hear from Deborah’s You, Me and the Big C pals and podcast hosts, Lauren Mahon and Steve Bland, as well as celebrity friends Lorraine Kelly, Gaby Roslin and George Alagiah, who share their memories of Debs and what she meant to them.

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And while it’s an emotional watch, Gaby Roslin says from the outset about Deborah that: “Cancer didn’t stop her having fun,” – and that laughter and joy is caught on camera.

The documentary captures Deborah’s early podcasting days, when she, Lauren and the late Rachael Bland, who died of breast cancer in 2018, put poo and cancer front and centre. 

“We wanted to talk about cancer like it was EastEnders,” remembers Lauren.

It was that frankness and the desire to get rid of any embarrassment that made ITV’s Lorraine Kelly fall head over heels for Deborah. 

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She remembers how they were talking about bowels within moments of first meeting.

“All she wanted to do was get this message across, make sure nobody else went through the same as her, make sure everyone had the information they needed and stop people being stupid about their bottoms,” said Lorraine. “I thought, ‘You are a smasher.’”

The half hour doc is filled with footage of Deborah in her absolute element, dressed in her poo outfit that was meant for a six-year-old, and in glitzy dresses dancing her heart out – whether with her son Hugo, 14, or rigged up to a chemo pump, shimmying in hospital with her friend Emma Cambell.

Emma opens up about how she was “living in a permanent state of fear” after her breast cancer diagnosis, but Debs helped change that for her.

Emma said: “There is only one person who could ever get me to dance and that was Debs.”

She added: “The essence of Debs has always been that radiance, that lifeforce, that spirit.”

But The Last Dance is honest about Deborah’s cancer and the impact it had on her body.

Steve Bland, husband to Rachael, said: “Debs would get messages from people thinking she had it easy, they’d see her dancing – how could that person be dying, how could that person have incurable cancer? They didn’t understand how hard it was for her.”

What are the red flag warning signs of bowel cancer?

IT’S the fourth most common cancer in the UK, the second deadliest – yet bowel cancer can be cured, if you catch it early enough.

While screening is one way of ensuring early diagnosis, there are things everyone can do to reduce their risk of the deadly disease.

Being aware of the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer, spotting any changes and checking with your GP can prove a life-saver.

If you notice any of the signs, don't be embarrassed and don't ignore them. Doctors are used to seeing lots of patients with bowel problems.

The five red-flag symptoms of bowel cancer include:

  • Bleeding from the back passage, or blood in your poo
  • A change in your normal toilet habits – going more frequently for example
  • Pain or a lump in your tummy
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Losing weight

Tumours in the bowel typically bleed, which can cause a shortage of red blood cells, known as anaemia. It can cause tiredness and sometimes breathlessness.

In some cases bowel cancer can block the bowel, this is known as a bowel obstruction.

Other signs include:

  • Gripping pains in the abdomen
  • Feeling bloated
  • Constipation and being unable to pass wind
  • Being sick
  • Feeling like you need to strain – like doing a number two – but after you've been to the loo

While these are all signs to watch out for, experts warn the most serious is noticing blood in your stools.

But, they warn it can prove tricky for doctors to diagnose the disease, because in most cases these symptoms will be a sign of a less serious disease.

Deborah’s Rebellious Hope is shown to be what it was: a force to reckon with.

There are clips of her thanking the staff at the Royal Marsden where she was treated under the care and guidance of her oncologist David Cunningham, and clips from her final BBC interview from May in which Deborah thanked her family and broke down in tears when she said she was going to "miss every chance [she] could have had,” which her children, Hugo and Eloise, 12.

The impact Deborah had on others is at the core of the documentary.

George Alagiah who was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer in 2014 said that being able to share what he was going through with Deborah, who understood and was going through it too, was a “solace”.

He said: “When my moment to share came I was lucky enough to have someone like Deborah to talk to.”

Lorraine paid tribute to her friend: “The thing that’s so hard is that she always bounced back, and I always thought she would, and that’s very difficult because we always thought she’d be here.”

Gaby also championed Deborah’s incredible, life-changing fundraising efforts: “These cancer charities she felt so strongly about will get that injection of money because of Debs, and wherever she is she’ll be singing and dancing away, knowing Debs, that’s exactly what she’s doing, with the biggest smile on her face.”

Lauren sums it up: “There’s people and then there’s Deborah and I just feel so grateful that I had her at all. 

“And everything she’s meant to me and so many others, I just wish she was here to see it but I understand that she couldn’t.

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“I just love her so much, but we just need to keep raising the money because we can’t be losing anymore Debs, we just can’t.”

Dame Deborah James: The Last Dance airs tonight on BBC One at 8.30pm and is already available on BBC iPlayer.

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